The beat rises over a low humming note — people around me are singing, and someone behind me comes in with a rhythmic run of strings. Across the stage, the percussionist touches his drum, now, and then again, a sound that seems to fall in the exact place to emphasize and hold the pulse of the music.
Someone leans their forehead to the ground — someone stretches out their arms — someone leaps spiralling into the air.
I’m sitting on a stage in a cool early summer night, in a circle of dancers. We’re up on a hill on the western flank of the Taconics, and we can hear the rain outside. We’re sheltered in the theater, and the auditorium is roofed and dry, but the sides and back are open to the air. When the music lulls we can hear songbirds in the fields and the old orchard. When the music rises I’m leaning forward into it, and my eyes are wet.
Qudus Onikeku tells us we are in this place together tonight. We have no outsiders here. We’re not performers and audience — we’re not here to make divisions, we’re not here to think about what will happen next — we’re here. Now. He and his company, QDance, have come here from Lagos, Nigeria, to be with the community in Chatham, N.Y. and welcome us into the creative space they make together, and now, we make together.
How can I tell you how this feels? The company will perform on Friday and Saturday, but tonight we are sitting in the circle, and the vibration is rising around us like the tide. Among people who live and work and create together, ideas and movement and music move freely, like conversation with an old friend. People listen. Someone moves by instinct, and people respond, improvising sound, leaning forward, giving attention and energy to uphold their instinct and kindle their momentum.
Someone asks aloud how do we move forward — and we’re moving like this. Here. Now.
This weekend …
As theaters and farmers markets open for the summer and the Berkshires’ first Pride Parade steps off in Pittsfield, the Berkshire International Film Festival returns this weekend, June 2 to 5, screening independent feature, documentary, short and family films on big screens across the county, with panel discussions and events focusing on filmmakers and artists from both sides of the camera.
Events coming up …
Find more art and performance, outdoors and food in the BTW events calendar.